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Indytraveler83

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  1. Sorry, this is actually from the year prior. It’s advertised as creol (I think) tiger shrimp. But it’s actually just normal tiny shrimp swimming in a sauce that smells a lot like curry, with a ball of sticky rice in the center of it, unseasoned. It is the single worst thing I’ve ever had, and the only MDR dish I’ve ever sent back.
  2. Debarkation: We wake up early on debarkation morning, with an awful smell coming into the room. It smells heavily of exhaust and I wake up coughing. The room is extremely hot and humid, and it feels like we've been dropped directly into the engine room of the ship on a hot day. Thankfully the early morning helps us hurry up and pack. We check the ship's webcam and notice that we are already docked, and it appears the ship has already started to load and unload supplies. Leaving the rooms, we head up to Lido with Jake's parent and our bags, as we have to be out by 8:30am. My parents had an early flight, but ours is later so we are in no hurry. We eat breakfast and sit on lido until the announcements go from "now this group can get off the ship" to "Okay, seriously everyone get off the ship now." Getting off the ship is bittersweet, but since we are some of the latest guests off, there is no wait walking off, and just a small wait to clear security on shore. The only issue now, is that most of the taxis and Ubers are bringing people to the port, and it takes a while to get an Uber to pick us up. As we drive away, we still marvel at how big any cruise ship is. Final thoughts: Pros: We loved the Miracle. Despite being a little rough around the edges, the layout of the ship is fantastic, its not crowded at all, and the public spaces are massive and very well done. The alchemy bar is one of the coolest spaces I've seen on any Carnival ship. I feel like getting on the newest and best ships for the state of the art features just aren't worth the crowds and cramped spaces, and will likely seek out some of the older ships in the coming years. Our best ship experiences have been on the Miracle and Elation, while we felt more much conflicted about our experiences on the Dream and Magic. We absolutely loved this itinerary. Grand Cayman and Mahogany Bay are two of the best beach ports I've been to, and I still don't see how Grand Turk and St. Thomas are considered a better pairing. What was a massive bonus, was that the Miracle tends to get to ports either alone, or with other small ships. This made the ports much easier to navigate, much less crowded and much more beautiful. For the most part, the staff on the Miracle was very good. We only had one negative experience with a very awkward waiter, but otherwise everyone else was great. We did notice though, that while this staff was very friendly, it was "professional friendly" which is much different than we've encountered in the past. The staff was extremely efficient and good at what they do, but no one seemed interested in taking much time to let us get to know them. I feel like this is what crew on a good RCL or NCL ship is like. On the bad side, we hated everything about Leigh. We kept thinking our cruise was being haunted by the Sham-wow guy! He was more infomercial than anything, and his hourly or more announcements were disruptive. We badly missed Chris the Flying Scotsman and Dr. E from our prior two cruises. Those guys brought great energy, and only seemed to do the announcements they had to do. We also are finding the shows to get very very stale. I'd love to see something good in the show lounge again, but in just peeking in or walking by the lounge, we could predict every line, every song and every performance. Its getting old. Finally we still can't get a good handle on the food. Sometimes its fantastic, and sometimes is like they unwrapped a microwave meal for you. I think overall the menu is slowly improving, but there's still some bullets to dodge. As a whole, I think we definitely got our cruise fever back, and will be targeting ships we haven't been on, that aren't the newest and the best. We've never been on any Conquest class ships, and would happily return to the Fantasy or Spirit Class ships. If you have any questions, let me know. Also, if you have any suggestions on ships, itineraries or places for us to target for our next edition of "A Winter Escape" let me know too! Thanks again for reading! -Shaun
  3. Last Sea Day- Is it over already?? We wake up and get breakfast on lido, meeting everyone else there. Bill is feeling better and profusely apologizes for missing the prior day. At breakfast we already start talking about the next cruise, but Jake gets antsy and abruptly gets up, saying he wants to enjoy the day. Soon after, Leigh's regular announcements start up about hourly, trying to squeeze us of every last dollar. Instead of following Leigh's advice, we get a picture of spiked lemonade from the bar on Serenity. We watch the woman make it, and are astounded at the simplicity of the recipe. The bartender grabs a juice glass, and fills it with vodka, then she pours it into the pitcher, then fills with lemonade. Its good, and its strong. We sneak off to a clam shell upstairs, as Serenity is full and talk in detail about our future (both of us are anticipating job changes in the very near future). Soon we notice that the sun and drink is getting to us, so we head downstairs to the casino. Against our own best judgement, we spend too much at the casino while trying to cool off. Even though we only managed to spend about 40 minutes at the casino, a juice glass worth of vodka will cause you to open your wallet real quick! When we finally realize how much we've spent, we head back down to the atrium to hear the string trio on the final day. Melissa is there again, and she is happy to serve us mostly water, as we are still feeling the effects of the sun and lemonade. Dinner comes soon, and I have to warn my mother off of the very bad tiger shrimp entree that she attempts to order (its literally the only thing I've ever sent back to the kitchen). I order the prime rib and its fantastic, followed by baked alaska for dessert. While the rest of us enjoy the bittersweet final song, Jake slips out for the last 20 minutes of his favorite string trio in the atrium. He had a much better time than we did, as the trio took a few requests from him, then let him take a few photos with them. I rejoin Jake in the atrium after dinner, and we listen to the variety music for a while with "Liz and Lucas" who would have been our favorites on just about any ship, if not for the string trio that Jake fell in love with. Unfortunately there isn't a lot of events left on the ship, but we happen to notice there is a singles mixer on the final night... um... isn't that better for the first night?? We join my parents again at the comedy club, but Jake's parents are exhausted and already in bed. Jake and my dad both fall asleep at the show, while mom and I watched the last show in that wacky looking lounge. Getting back to the cabin, we are too exhausted to pack and just go to bed. Next up: Debarkation and final thoughts
  4. Grand Cayman: All alone We woke up around 8 to get breakfast with everyone, deciding on a port day breakfast in the dining room. Everyone but Bill showed up to breakfast, and we heard he wasn't feeling well. The port day breakfast is supposed to be an express 30 minute deal, but we ended up in the dining room for closer to an hour. When food was finally served, they had forgotten several items. Overall, the food was good, but I would be upset if I were in a hurry. The plan had been for all of us to head to 7 mile beach via taxi, but at this point everyone is telling me that they are about as fried by the sun as they can possibly stand. Patty decided to stay behind for a while and take care of Bill, while my parents say they will get off the ship with us this morning, but they aren't interested in heading to the beach. Leigh starts his announcements and tells everyone to get ready to go, then head up to Lido and take a numbered sticker, which he will start calling as soon as the Carnival excursions and priority guests have taken a shuttle off the ship. We do exactly that, and head up to Lido and get sticker #16. It takes nearly 40 more minutes before they get to group #14. At that point, we decided to head down to the atrium since it takes my mother some time to get down stairs. We get to the atrium, and we see a very frustrated Leigh pacing around and loudly complaining. Turns out that guests are getting stickers for the shuttle, then returning to their rooms to get off the ship whenever they want (seems like a water shuttle version of seat saving). He looks at us, and asks if we are ready to get off the ship NOW. We say we are, and he directs us downstairs to the water shuttle. Now here's where things get good: we are the ONLY ship here. And even though almost everyone on the ship is trying to get off, there is no one else heading to the island. Its a mostly sunny day, but some clouds and brief rain squalls threaten the sky. As the shuttle get to the pier, we get the normal annoyance of the photographers trying to take pictures on the "gangway." This was particularly annoying as the tender ride wasn't very smooth and even on the dock it is bucking up and down. I'm not entirely sure it was safe to have people pausing on the bouncing gangway, but I guess the picture was worth it? Regardless we get into the port, and are immediately inundated by the local tour guides trying to arrange tours. It is here we are reminded that the independent tours are so much cheaper than the ship tours. Heading to do rum tasting and rum cake tasting is $25, while its $50 on the ship. The trip to the caves is $79, while its over $120 on the ship. However, even though a few of the tours are interesting, we settle on the $6 bus/taxi ride to 7 mile beach. My parents seperate from us, and we get on the bus. The driver talks about the island a little on the way there, and asks where everyone wants to go. He tells us he can drop us off at a local beach club for $5, at the public access areas for $6, at Calico Jack's for $6, or all the way to Cemetery Beach for $7. I personally would have loved to try the snorkeling at Cemetery Beach, but know Jake is more interested in a lazy beach day. The rest of the bus feels the same, and everyone tells the driver to take us to Calico Jack's. Calico Jack's is a beach bar that serves basic beers, cocktails and a small menu of local food. Upon arrival, we are greeted by several employees strongly encouraging customers to rent a pair of beach chairs and an umbrella for $20. Jake tries to walk past, but I quickly pull out $20 and ask for the rental. I remember how badly we burned up the day before, and how grumpy he'd gotten, and I'm not ready to repeat. We are escorted down to the beach and given wristbands and the rented equipment. Jake lays back in the comfy chair and admits I was right to rent it. I decide to put on the snorkeling gear and check out the fish underwater. Now the snorkeling in this area isn't fantastic. But at the same time the beach is so big I find myself swimming for nearly an hour before getting back. Arriving back on shore I'm exhausted and starving. Jake goes to get a menu, but comes back with a server in tow. We quickly order locally caught fish and some local beer. Now... what we don't entirely realize is that the prices are listed in Cayman currency. Once its converted to American dollars and the automatic gratuity is added, our bill is close to $60, when we thought it was closer to $40. At first we freaked out, as we only had $60 between us, including return fare for the bus. But the bar takes credit cards, so we just put it on the card we brought, and stopped sweating. We spent the next few hours swimming, relaxing and drinking a small bucket of beers. Since there was only one ship in port, the beach was half empty and very quiet. Writing this its hard to explain how awesome of a day this was. I don't feel like many people get the privilege of being on this beach without sharing it with 10,000 or 15,000 other people. With it so clear, it was easy to see the pristine sand, the turquoise water and to hear the waves as they lapped up on shore. As the afternoon dragged on, we decide around 3:30 pm its time to go. We changed, packed up and found a bus at around 3:45pm. After sitting on it for a few minutes, one of the passengers asks why he hasn't gone yet, and he tells her that he's the last bus out for the day. We breathe a sigh of relief that we didn't miss the last bus! However, in a few minutes he goes up and down the beach and announces his departure, which causes a few others to get on board. Around 4, we finally take off from the beach. The ride back was hilarious, as a family behind us are sick of the ship's food and have a massive craving for fast food. As we pass McDonalds, Wendy's and Burger King they beg the driver to stop. It was even worse when we passed KFC, as they promise the driver they'd buy him a bucket. He laughs and keeps going, but is nice enough to point out there's a Burger King near the port. As we get off the bus, they race to Burger King as the driver laughs. We tip him and get in line for the shuttle. Back on the ship, we head to dinner and Bill is still missing. We are a little worried he's come down with Noro, but Patty assures us he'll be okay. Dinner proceeds as normal, and we are back at our usual table with good food. Afterwards Jake and I decide to listen to music all night. We head to the atrium and listen to the string trio most of the night. We meet Melissa, a bar waitress from Japan who is especially friendly. Completely worn out of margaritas, I ask her to let me try some of the martinis on the menu. She makes fantastic martinis, but also is happy to keep a glass of water for each of us full at all times. Even better, if you don't drink the water as fast as she think you should, she occasionally drops fruit in it on her way by to entice you to drink more water. Keeping hydrated helps out quite a bit, and we enjoy ourselves until the string trio retires for the night. We aren't quite tired yet, so we join my parents for another comedy show by the other comedian. He's about average and we laugh enough for it to be worth it. Afterwards we head to the lido for more food, and catch the late night snack bar for the first time. We enjoyed a cheeseburger, fries and brownies before finally getting tired enough to head to bed. Tonight we'd sleep a little better, seems everyone is too tired to do laundry! Next up: Last sea day!
  5. Sorry! Work has been crazy. Its my day off so I'm going to try and push through the rest!
  6. Mahogany Bay Part 2: Alright, I'm on a roll, but this will be my last entry for today. Moving on to the evening! We got back to our cabins, and I walked in to find Jake asleep in a pile of room service food and trays. A pizza box, as well as evidence of chicken strips and fries lay strewn about the bed. The downside to his early return, is that in addition to the mess he'd made, he'd put out the "snoozing" sign before our steward could get to our room, and now wet towels from the morning still lay around as well. I showered then went across the hall to my parents room to watch the ship sail away. I got some pictures of the rusting shipwreck that Mahogany Bay is so famous for, and then talked for a while as Jake woke up and showered. I eventually rejoined him and after a brief discussion, we all decided to head to the dining room for the second formal night, giving it one more chance. With all six of us reunited we sat at a large table near the staircase in the dining room, thankfully far away from Mr. Awkward and his unusual greetings. The team from our first night in the dining room attended to us, and being just before 6 o clock, the service improved dramatically. All of our food came quickly, and all of it was very good, except the "Jumbo shrimp" was more like "Slightly larger than average" shrimp. We all selected the "lighter fare" dessert, and found it to be plenty sweet enough to give us a much needed taste of sugar, without the stomach ache. Jake's mom got us all shots that were chocolate and something with whipped cream, which were great, but tasted oddly like an alcoholic ice cream sunday in a shot glass. We split off from there, Jake's mom and Bill intent to go to 88 keys, while the rest of us decided to seek out music elsewhere. We headed down to Alchemy and caught the violin trio there, watching them for well over an hour. During their performance, we encountered another man sitting at the bar, who literally was screaming as loudly as possible at the people next to him and the bartender, who looked visibly annoyed every time he turned away. Thankfully he was just waiting for dinner, and left Alchemy when late seating was allowed in. When the trio were done, we attempted to head to the piano bar, but realized that this particular singer was intent on performing only his very narrow song list, and nothing more. Having heard all of these songs a few times by him, we decided to check out the new comedians on the ship, and headed to the earlier Adults Only show. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about the comedian they brought in for that night. I wasn't offended... but it also just wasn't right... The comedian suffers from cerebral palsy, and I applause Carnival in a way for giving someone with disabilities a chance to showcase their talents. And in the first few minutes, he was funny, making observations about his condition that would have been wildly offensive if anyone else had. But once he got past that 5 minute bit, it felt like he ran out of material. He continued into the type of thing I hate, where he began just picking on audience members. His jokes were crass and definitely adult, but also certainly juvenile. I can't exactly say I was offended, because that's hard to do. But... I think I'd heard most of these jokes, or some variation by bullies in jr. high. There was just no planning or cleverness to the jokes, it was more like hurling insults. The crowd quickly grew quiet, unsure of how to take his humor, and this caused him to begin shouting at the audience to laugh, and he asked out loud why we didn't appreciate his on the spot humor. He ended his show with "I"ll be back tomorrow with an all new show, because this one obviously didn't work," and then walked off stage in mostly silence. It might have been the most awkward comedy bit I've ever seen. On one hand I applaud Carnival for giving the man a shot, but on the other hand, I don't think he had the material, training or experience to perform these types of shows. I still can't quite place how I feel about the entire thing... Jake's parents had never made it to the comedy show, and my parents decided to turn in, but still awake (and surprisingly sober) we headed to lido to get pizza, then sat out on a rear facing clam shell in Serenity to eat pizza and talk. We ended up falling asleep at some point, and woke up around 1 am with no one at all around us, save the single staff member charged with watching over the area at night. We got up, hesitating and wondering if we should just sleep in the peace of the ship's wake for the rest of the night. The 15% left on my phone's battery convinced us otherwise, and we retreated to our room. We almost immediately regretted it, as the room was dank with wet towels and swimwear, still smelling of pizza. We curled up in bed, and prepared for the next day in Grand Cayman. THUNK. THUNK. THUNK. Seriously... never get a room next to the laundry. Just don't do it. Just don't.
  7. Roatan- An island of hidden adventures We awoke the next morning to room service 25 minutes early. We'd selected the 8-8:30 slot and the knock came at 7:35 am. Jake was still fast asleep in bed, and I was in the shower. I cracked the door, asked the gentleman to wait, then quickly threw on yesterday's dirty clothes to get our food. We'd gone light this time, electing to have only coffee, yogurt and fruit. We ate, packed our bags, then met my parents outside in the hallway as soon as they announced we could get off the ship. Jake's folks were to meet us too, but when we knocked on their door, they'd clearly not gotten out of bed yet, and said they'd catch up with us later. Roatan was a short day, so eager to get off the ship, the four of us headed downstairs. On the way, my parents tell us that dinner the night before was just as bad, and they are seriously considering going to the buffet tonight instead of the dining room. It sounds like they got the same uncomfortable waiter, and he didn't improve his awkwardness in the slightest. Now Jake and I had been to Roatan before, having taken the snorkeling excursion off of one of the small islands. It was some of the best snorkeling we'd ever done, but had left us with only an hour to explore the port. We left the ship intent on exploring this port to the best of our ability. What helped, is that the only other ship in port was the Holland America Rotterdam, which had also left from Tampa. Both ships together still held less than some of the larger ships in the fleet. Getting into port, we quickly walked through the market area and to the beach. Now the beach is free, but as always, if you want an umbrella or a clam shell you have to pay for it. Mom quickly went to the rental desk and got a clam shell ($26 for the day), unwilling to sit in the already intense sunlight for another minute. Jake was unwilling to pay for one, and instead chose a couple of chairs a little further back. He was still suffering from his late night binge of skipping and drinking, and told me to try the snorkeling while he relaxed in the chair. Now there is a free snorkeling reef on the beach here. Its just a PAIN to find. You have to go all the way down the beach, past the private reserved areas, and then into the seating area of the restaurant on the very end of the walkway. Walking through the seating area, there is a sliver of beach and a long pier. Going all the way down the pier, there is a lifeguard and a few laddered entries onto the reef. The snorkeling here isn't as amazing as it is off the small islands on excursions. The fish are smaller and a little less diverse, but they are still there, still colorful and the massive breadth of area you can cover is fantastic. I swam from coral formation to coral formation observing all the different fish and creatures swimming in the waters. In this area, the water is a little more shallow than you would usually snorkel, and in places the coral and rocks rise all the way to the waterline. The surf pounds this area hard, and I would not recommend trying to swim without fins on your feet. In certain places the ebb and flow of the waters can pull you 10 or 15 feet without warning. Its no wonder there's a lifeguard here. I found a calm spot where fish swam below me and paused to watch them. Frequently if you pause above an area for long enough, fish will come out in droves that weren't obvious just before. Now I'm neither a new or overly experienced snorkeler, but I'd like to say I've been doing it long enough that I have a good idea of what to expect and what not to. While looking around, I turned my head, and noticed a large shape near me. Fully turning, I realized a large barracuda (3 or more feet in length) was swimming right next to me. I don't mean 20 feet away, I mean it was right next to me, I could have touched it. Freaked out, I turned to face it upright in the water, but the fish didn't swim away from me. Suspecting it was looking at the flash off of my watch, I covered it with my other hand and swam back toward the pier. Getting back to the beach, Jake and I ate lunch at the beach side restaurant, drinking only water to try and hydrate. The sun was still scorching down on us, and Jake was overheating quickly. The food helped (and was quite good, if you exclude the soggy french fries) and we decided to go rent kayaks. We got to the rental booth, paid for them ($19 for a half hour each with a single kayak) and were told to go to the water sports area. We were a little concerned at first, as the attendants didn't seem to be in a hurry, and we'd only rented for half an hour. But we were given our kayaks and life vests, and told we could kayak all the way down to the mouth of the stream the boat are put into, but not go past the marked buoys. Then we were told to watch for the giant sea turtles... Now from the looks of the watersports rental area, you'd think you were just kayaking down a narrow stream. But when you turn the bend in the stream, you realize this is not at all what you are doing. You are paddling to the mouth of the stream, where the open ocean crashes against jagged rocks. At the very mouth, just before the marked buoys, the current gets strong and you must either turn back, park against the sea turtle enclosure or go to the beach. We observed the giant sea turtles for a moment (not sure if they are in some sort of conservation program or what the story is) and then turned to the beach. We parked our kayaks on the beach, revealing a long stretch of unused, undeveloped and mostly undisturbed beach leading out to the open ocean. We lingered there for far too long, walking up and down the beach and listening to the waves crash into the jagged rocks just offshore. Entirely loosing track of time, we got back in the kayaks with 2 minutes of rental time left. Too tired to race back to the rental area (and knowing it was futile) we paddled the 10 minutes or so back and hoped we wouldn't be charged for another half hour. When we returned, they told us where to park, then excitedly asked us if we'd enjoyed the beach and the turtles. We said we had, and they invited us to come back soon. Seems that no one was keeping much track of our time, and thinking back, we don't think our time of departure was noted in any way. Returning to the beach, Jake decided he'd ran out of energy and decided to return to the ship. I wasn't ready to leave yet, so I rejoined my parents and we spent a little time wading in the water on the beach. We only briefly encountered Jake's family, but Bill was excited that the sand on the beach was packed firmly, and the slope into the water was such that he could get in comfortably and enjoy the water, despite his mobility issues. I guess he spent a good deal of the day wading in the warm waters. Mom and I decided to try the "fish therapy" in one of the booths near the beach, where they let fish eat the dead skin off your feet. We elected the 20 minute session, and boy what an experience. If you see anyone on TV do this, they badly overreact to the fish. It tickles just a little at first, then feels much like an electric toothbrush going along your feet and toes the rest of the time. I watched at they cleaned my embarrassingly dirty cuticles and toenails, then do their best to eat as much dead skin build up as they could before we had to slowly remove our feet from the tubs. I'm not sure of all the health benefits that the booth touts, but it was a fun experience, and it certainly did a lot to clean and remove dead skin from my feet. We collected my dad, then returned to the shopping area. Most of this shopping is the typical port area mix of the normal brands as well as the local artists and craft makers. I had only 1 target: chocolate. The Honduras Chocolate Company has a small booth here, and they make some absolutely amazing stuff. The ingredient list is simple: cacao, cane sugar, then 1 or 2 ingredients to give it the listed flavor (passion fruit, salt, or chili for example). The woman at the booth eagerly hands out samples, which we gladly accepted, but as a past customer I needed no convincing to buy a handful of their bars. I'm actually quite sad, as only one is left in our refrigerator and I want more! We then walked past all of the people playing music, and back onto the ship, with a fair amount of time to spare. Mahogany Bay might be a manufactured port of sorts, but its one of my favorites. We were at Grand Turk last year, and I'm sorry, but it doesn't hold a candle to Mahogany Bay in my opinion. There's far more to do, and there's no pushy vendors walking the beach trying to get your money. Next Up: Mahogany Bay Part 2: A somewhat sober night!
  8. Belize Day: Who's getting off the ship? Jake and I have been to Belize once before, deeply enjoying the Cave Tubing experience deep in the jungle. No one else in our party had been here before. The problem with Belize, is that there is a very long tender ride to the port, and the small port is easily crowded and overwhelmed. If you want to go on an excursion, you have to fight through this crowd to stay with your group, then usually take a bus another hour or more to your destination. In particular, I noticed that the port load today was especially heavy, with 5 ships expected to offload passengers, with RCL and NCL each parking one of their mega ships offshore. Looking for a relaxing trip, everyone opted to stay on the ship except my parents, who wanted to experience a new port. They elected to try the "Best of Belize" tour through the ship excursions. The announcements came early and often from Leigh, who first wanted everyone to wait, then started desperately calling for passengers to fill the tenders, as it appeared more people than expected decided to stay on the ship. As the official announcement king, it seemed he needed to give us the details of each and every tender that pulled up to the ship, its capacity, how many people were on, and how many more could go. We awoke late and had a relaxed breakfast on lido. After the night before, I embarked on a breakfast of potatoes and pastries to help keep my stomach at bay. We walked the ship a little, and came to realize that if your going to stay on the ship for a port, this is the one to do it. Forced to anchor far from the island, the ship sits in calm light blue water that stretches quite a ways in each direction. Watching the water shuttles go back and forth was interesting, and we could see two NCL ships book-ending us, though neither was close enough to read the name. We had scheduled a couple's massage in the spa late in the morning, and Jake's parents had done the same immediately after us. We had thankfully paid less for this than usual, combining both the sea day discount with the black Friday discount Carnival had given out earlier. Entering the spa in the Miracle is a bit of a maze, but soon enough we found ourselves in a room with two woman were were bound and determined to work out the kinks in our backs and shoulders. A good massage always hurts a little, but good grief my left shoulder was tight. I think it would have hurt less if she'd just taken a meat tenderizing hammer to it! But regardless it left me sleepy and relaxed. Even now my shoulder feels significantly better than it did before the massage. They ended the massage with the typical product pitch, but this was a bit softer than usual, only offering a few products, and not asking us to look at a clipboard full of items or being overly pushy. We politely declined, tipped them and went off in search of some sun. We found ourselves laying on the Serenity deck again, and quickly ordered a pitcher of mango margaritas. We coated ourselves in sunscreen, hid the icy pitcher under the small table to protect it from the sun, and set about relaxing and drinking for the remainder of the afternoon. We ordered a second pitcher, but just as it showed up, Jake's parents brought us one of their own, thanking us for organizing the trip. Now we had two full pitchers at our disposal, with an empty one sitting by as well. Lets just say that sitting in the hot sun, drinking that heavily and not remembering to eat aren't a good combo. I woke up later badly burnt, disoriented and not too capable of walking. This wasn't really meant to be a booze cruise, but it was sure turning out that way! Hungry and not keen on getting up, I ordered a pizza through the Hub app, and they quickly delivered it to us on the Serenity deck. Now I'm usually the person that gets livid at any up charge as many of you may know. But food delivery to anywhere on the ship, and avoiding the long pizza line was entirely worth $5. I'd be totally willing to pay for more food to be delivered anywhere on the ship, it was that nice. After eating pizza, I was feeling well enough to stumble off to the room and lay down. I must have slept for quite a while, as I remember Jake coming back into the room asking me if I wanted to go to dinner. I declined, and he ordered me chicken strips, fries and cookies to the room, while he went off to eat with everyone else (or so I thought). I was pleasantly surprised that the chicken strips arrived hot and crispy, as did the fries. The cookies were a major disappointment, as they changed from the soft and gooey cookies to bite sized cookies with a dry sandy texture. I was hungry enough to eat them anyways. Jake was supposed to be back from dinner soon, and I was worried when everyone else got back and decided to check on me, and I learned he hadn't joined them. So here I am, now badly hungover searching the ship for Jake. I can't remember what time it was, but it was certainly after 10. I eventually find him skipping... yes literally skipping... around lido. He'd decided to skip dinner and instead order a bucket of beer and listen to the on board music. This wouldn't have been a problem, but when a drunken man standing 6'2 starts skipping near waist high guardrails, you can start to imagine how people actually fall off of cruise ships. I tried to get him under control, but my head pounded badly and my vision was still trying to fail me. I followed him until he tripped and nearly fell hard on a wet spot on deck. At that point I told him if he fell off the ship it was his own ****ing fault, and at this point I'd just happily collect the life insurance and celebrate. He told me to **** off, but thankfully stopped skipping. I went back to bed, and he sulked into bed about an hour later. While no one likes to argue on vacation, this spat finally ended our serious binge drinking on the cruise, and we'd spend the rest of our trip with most of our faculties intact. We fell asleep soon after... CLUNK! CLUNK! CLUNK! CLUNK! Is someone drying their shoes? Next up: Roatan- Kayaks, snorkeling and a barracuda!
  9. Cozumel Part 2- It's not over yet! Stepping onto the ship, we get to the Security checkpoint and Jake's card will not scan. At some point the bar code has become badly smeared and it won't work. My mother has the same problem on her card. Thankfully they can check Jake in using my card, and Mom using my dad's card. They tell us that both bar codes are so smeared the cards aren't usable, and they should both head to guest services to have the cards replaced. So instead of heading back to our rooms, we head up to the atrium to get their cards. Mom and Jake break off to guest services, while dad and I sit down in the atrium couches and try to rest. A bar server walks up to me and asks me if I need anything. I'm barely able to cough out the word "water" before slumping back into the couch. I must have looked pretty bad, because the poor girl practically ran to the bar, got water and brought it to me. I may have drank it all in one gulp... At guest services, Mom said there was thankfully no one in line, and she requested an S&S replacement first. The woman apparently wasn't very please, as she snatched the card from Mom, made another one and chucked the old one into the garbage with some force, and little to say. Jake then asked for his replacement, but as she tried to snatch the card from him, he slumped over the counter and kept running his fingers over the smeared bar code to show her the problem. Mom said a bit of a tug of war ensued as she tried to pull the defective card from his fingers. She finally got it and replaced it, apparently even more annoyed with Jake. As he stepped out of line, he then panicked that Mom hadn't received hers yet (she had clearly gotten it just moments ago) and nearly ran into the next person in line. We all made it back to our cabins, where I promptly passed out in bed, while Jake insisted on putting all of his stuff away. A few minutes later Bill knocked on our door. I opened it, and stood in the doorway swaying, trying to maintain some sort of appearance of comprehension. "Guys, we need to talk" Uh-Oh "What's up Bill?" "Well, see, we've had dinner every night together, and just spent all day together, and your mother... well both of us think that maybe tonight will be a good night to go our own way." He continued for a while about why this was a good idea. Now I don't know if any of you guys have a relative like this, but my mother in law and her husband both like to sound as politically correct and polite as possible. All of his speech translates to: "Patty is sloshed out of her mind and can't make it to dinner." I quickly agreed, feeling my footing failing and vision darkening, escorted him out of the room and passed out on the bed again. Several hours later I awoke to Jake storming around the room panicking. Remember when I said he put everything away? Well upon awaking, he only remembered the party at Mr. Sanchos, having no recollection of his stumbling return to the ship, or putting anything away. Compounding the problem, he didn't put anything away in the right place, putting his passport on the bathroom counter, his money in the mini-fridge and his backpack in the wrong closet. I had to get him to sit down, stop freaking out, and help him find his stuff. I was starting to feel better, though clearly still inebriated, but Jake was quite disoriented still. My parents called, asking if we were up for a late dinner, and I was, but he wasn't. I got him back into bed, helped him order a pizza on the Hub app. (yes its $5, but in situations like this, that's priceless) My parents and I were the only ones going to dinner, and they asked us if the three of us would like to be seated with others (which I've never been asked at YTD). Neither interested in meeting new people, or confident we were sober enough to not be annoying, we declined. The hostess seemed annoyed at this, even though it was past 8:30 and the dining room was half empty. We were sat at a table for 4, and a waiter came around soon after. Now I know the dining room staff is supposed to know your name, but I'm used to being called "Shaun," "Mr. Shaun" or "Mr. <Last Name>." But this waiter insisted on calling us all by our full first and last name, and kept referring to us as the "<Last Name> family" very loudly. I get the impression he was just trying to get to know us, but the way he said our names loudly, repeatedly and unnecessarily sounded more like a stalker than friendly. I know across cultures different things are taken differently, but this was just plain weird. Dinner didn't fare much better. I've always felt that the later you eat in the MDR, the worse the food is, and prior to this night avoided late dining like the plague. Our only experience with late dining was a disastrous cruise on the Dream a few years ago when we couldn't get out of an assigned seating late dining time and ended up abandoning the MDR altogether due to poor food, poor service and even worse table mates. Despite being YTD, this trip to the MDR was much the same, as my "medium rare" flat iron steak came out somewhere beyond well done, Dad's chicken was bone dry as if it was to be turned into jerky, with Mom's vegetarian entree the only thing that passed for decent quality. Eager to get away from the creepy waiter, we ate quickly, turned down dessert and headed to Lido for ice cream. This triggered another disappointment as the ice cream machines were empty (an unfortunate thing that occurred quite frequently). My parents then felt like taking in some evening entertainment, but I was still feeling the effects of the day enough that I headed back to bed. Arriving in the cabin, Jake was sitting in bed watching TV, having greatly enjoyed his pizza and looking somewhat refreshed. I filled him in on our awful dinner outing, and he was glad to have missed it. The room smelled strongly of pepperoni, and was already getting stuffy again. Despite this, we laid down and tried to get some sleep. CLUNK. CLUNK. CLUNK. CLUNK. CLUNK. I woke up to this awful noise, and tried to figure out where it was coming from. Well... the laundry room was right next door, and after investigating, it sounded like someone's belt was banging around in the dryer. Time for the earplugs again... Next up: Belize- To get off the ship, or not...
  10. Lol, I love the Mr. Sanchos feedback. It is truly a great place if you want to just relax, party or do whatever. The service is awesome and they really try to do whatever they can to make you as happy as possible. The beach is great for swimming, but not a snorkeling area at all. Last time we were there, we drank alot, but not quite that much. We are debating about skipping it next time just to avoid the inevitable disaster. Speaking of disasters, part 2 is coming soon!
  11. Day 3: Cozumel We wake up to Leigh announcing that the Captain has gotten us into port well ahead of time, and that passengers can begin disembarking an hour early. Looking at the clock, its 7 am and he believes we will be cleared by 7:30. No matter, as Bill had told us the night before he had no intention of meeting any earlier than 8:45. We both wake up again in puddles of our own sweat, as it seems the AC can only cool the room when we aren't in it. So we get breakfast, which is pretty empty since people are now scrambling to get onshore as quick as possible. I got the Salmon Benedict, which is always decent, but never great. Jake got the scrambled eggs which were more yolk than scrambled... Meeting back outside the rooms, we all gather so we can go to Mr. Sanchos. We'd had a fantastic experience there 2 years ago, and had high hopes of reliving our great day. Getting off the ship was easy, and we were parked next to the Carnival Fantasy. While the Fantasy is only slightly smaller than the Miracle, she sure looks smaller when getting out. I think it has more to do with length than anything, as the Miracle is a long, narrow ship. Walking through the port, we pass the various vendors selling things, and try to take note of the ones we want to visit on the way back (if only we knew...). The taxi stand at Cozumel is even more organized than it was 2 years ago, with all of the prices posted on a large sign and various taxi employees asking how many in your party and where you want to go. We quickly were escorted into a van, whose driver asked us if we had reservations, as Mr. Sanchos is almost always fully booked in advance. After assuring him we had, we took off on the short ride to the all inclusive day club. Arriving, we were escorted in, and just like last time we paid, then were quickly escorted to a table where our waiter Edwin assured us he would take great care of us for the day. This time, we got a table with a shade made from giant palm leaves, providing even more shade to my sun sensitive mother (not kidding, sometimes I think she's Casper). We were right behind the loungers, and he allowed us to reserve a few of those as well. He took our orders for food and drink, and walked off quickly to retrieve them. I took a quick swim with my snorkeling gear, and discovered the beach along Mr. Sanchos is sandy smooth and lifeless. Getting out of the water, I got my first Mango Margarita! Now if any of you haven't had these at Mr. Sanchos, they are unique. They are served frozen, but with a mix of salt and chili powder on the rim, giving them a little bit of spice to go with the sweet. I drank that, ate quesadillas,, and quickly ordered another one with some coconut shrimp. Now everyone was having a great time, eating, drinking and enjoying themselves. Except my dad. He tends to be picky, and then has a habit of making a big deal out of things. So as the rest of of ate, drank and were merry, he quickly rejected the long island ice tea given to him, saying it tasted terrible, and tried another drink. Edwin brought him something else, which was also greeted with a scowl. This repeated itself 3 or 4 times, and the rest of us grew nervous that Edwin would stop serving us altogether, with my mother scolding Dad loudly for being such a jerk. Edwin persisted though, and finally was able to mix Sprite with Captain Morgan at just the right ratio to make Dad happy. I can't say enough about the service he gave us. Not only did he put up with Dad's episode, but he then made sure he served Dad enough of his new favorite drink to catch up to the rest of us, even bringing one into the water for Dad to enjoy while he sat in waist deep water along the beach. Now is where the friendly counting began, as we ate and drank, and we quickly got to our 7th and 8th drinks. But it was getting "late" and Bill really wanted to head out by 2 pm. He decided to go for a quick swim before leaving, but found the sand on the shoreline to be too soft and steep to get in comfortably with his mobility issues. Thankfully Mr. Sanchos has a pool, so he chose to get in the pool instead. A half hour passed, and it was now 2:15. We were all getting ready to go, but Bill hadn't come back yet. We looked for him, and there he sat at the swim up bar in the pool, throwing back drinks like he was in college. "Didn't you want to go?" "When do we gotta be back?" "Ship leaves at 4:30 Bill" "EHHHH, we've got time!" And with that he ordered another drink. The rest of us joined him in the pool, and found that while Edwin brought us food and drink quickly, the poolside bartenders were his source. And they were lightning fast. Now drinks 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 followed in rapid succession as we all danced like idiots in a pool with a large group from the Fantasy. At one point, one of the girls started flirting heavily with me, and I showed her my wedding ring, and told her my husband would likely disprove. "That's so beautiful you guys can do that in your country, where ya from?" "The United States..." "Oh I'm from Arkansas. It's not legal there." "The state of Arkansas?" "No, the country of Arkansas," she replied with a slur. And I thought I was drunk... Eventually, BIll sobered up enough to realize it was time to leave, and rounded us all up. It was now 3:30, but we had yet an hour to get on the ship. We tipped Edwin heavily for getting my dad too drunk to remember to complain, and then got in a cab for the ride home. Now I don't remember everything about the cab right, but some song came on, and we all started singing it so loudly that the driver turned it off. Looking around the cab, Jake was fiddling with his glasses and swaying, my own vision was going double, and my dad and his mom just sat there smiling for no reason. It was only my mother and Bill who appeared to have any of their own faculties left. We got out of the cab, and everyone tried to pay the cab driver, but only Bill was actually able to retrieve money to do so. Walking into the port, it was now getting close to 4, but we still had plenty of time to get to the ship. Or so we thought. We walked a few storefronts down, and Jake saw a bathroom and began stumbling to it. Most of us agreed it was a good idea, and we still had time. After using the bathroom, we walked out and tried to get going again. Now Patty saw a shop that she'd wanted to stop at, and went charging into it with reckless abandon, purse out and ready to spend. Bill assured us he'd get her back to the ship, and for the rest of us to go. We started walking, but noticed we were missing someone. Where's Jake? He'd sat down in the middle of the walkway and was messing with his clip on sunglasses, trying to straighten them onto his glasses. We tried to help him with it, but none of us were sober enough to properly put them on, so he put them in his pocket and we moved on. We walked past another few storefronts, and he was gone again. This time he was sitting against a wall on another storefront, trying again to clip them on. The same scene repeated itself, and we walked on. Just a few more storefronts down, he suddenly panicked because his parents weren't with us, and took off the other way before we could explain they had broken off to do some shopping. Now we retreated quite a ways only to find him sitting down, messing with his sunglasses again. Now it's 4:20, and we need to get back on the ship. I stuff his sunglasses into his backpack, and tell him he can mess with them later. We make it about 5 storefronts forward, back to where we were, before he sits down again, but quickly forgets why. Now keep in mind, Jake is the most affected of us, but my father and I are both wobbling and stumbling, with only my Mom bearing any resemblance to sobriety. We get up, and manage to walk all the way to the fountain at a snail's pace without stopping, before Jake sits down, roots through his bag and starts messing with his sunglasses again. Now its 4:30 and we need to get back on the ship. I try to tell him to get up, but he ignores me and says we have plenty of time. Somehow my mom convinces him to get going again, and we walk toward the Mexican agent who needs to check our passports. Have you ever been in a group of 4 that were not ready to present any ID at all, and too drunk to remember where they put it? Jake had several panic moments where he wanted to run all the way back to Mr. Sanchos and look for it, while I fumbled with the small case I knew I'd put my documents in. Thankfully after some time, these agents allowed us to pass even though Jake and my dad were only able to present sail and sign cards. We try to walk quickly through the duty free store, but Jake gets distracted (see the pattern?) by chocolate and starts to shop. Again my mother comes to the rescue, asking him if he's ready to buy, and when he responds with "I dunno," she quickly makes him put things down and keep walking. We get to the ship, and the Carnival employees are packing things up, but don't appear to be too urgent to get us onboard yet. One of the entertainers starts dancing, and I decide to dance with him in some ugly display of tequila-inspired bouncing. By now all the tables and banners are down, and the employees are starting to act a bit more urgent. The entertainers get on the ship, and now we see mostly dock workers on the dock, with a few security people motioning for us (and a few others) to get onboard. Jake thinks this is a good time to set down his backpack, open it up, dump several things out and remove his video camera. He starts spinning in circles, taking video of the Miracle, Fantasy and dock, all while looking like he's about to fling the thing into the water. It takes and unbearably long time for the rest of us to get him to put it down, and help him pack everything else away. Finally we start pulling him to the ship, and he asks where his sunglasses are. I nearly hit him! We get onboard, and I can hear them start to bring in the ramp behind us. That's about as close as we've ever come... Next up: Cozumel Night- The spectacle continues...
  12. First Sea Day- Sun, Sushi and Loud Voices Its Monday morning and we are already hungover. I tried using the trick where you turn your TV onto the webcam channel and then muting it, to simulate natural light in our inside cabin. Well... the TV decided to shut off during the night, so I wake up around 7:45, coated in sweat from the stagnant air with no clue if its the middle of the night or late in the day. We both showered quickly, adding to the humidity in the room. Dressing we headed up to Lido and all I can think about is an omelette. Thankfully the omelette station is almost empty, despite long lines forming in the regular breakfast buffet. We get that, then discover that not only is there a coffee bar on deck 2, but there is also a mini coffee bar on lido. We both get iced mochas and head back to Serenity's seating area to eat. There we meet my parents who are already sitting in the shade, having finished breakfast. Mom eagerly tells me that the "Taste Bar" is actually a permanent sushi station, and we decide to have sushi for lunch. We are discovering things on this ship that are awesome, but not really mentioned on Carnival's website. So far we have 2 coffee bars instead of 1, and a sushi station. What other things can we find? Jake and I decide to sit out in the sun for a while on some loungers (once we find some un-reserved ones) and marvel at the number of towels, books, flip flops and bags bathing themselves while humans look for spots. I'm just thrilled that Carnival is so accommodating that footwear and personal belongings can also get a tan for hours too... One of the seat savers sits down next to us, and brag that they came out at 6:30, clipped their personal towels to the chairs and went back to bed, just like the internet told them to. Then they ask where we got the yellow towels we are using, and since they apparently didn't look it up, we tell them that towels at the towel hut are $22 each. Technically true... Leigh decided that hourly announcements seemed appropriate, making it a bit hard to rest in the sun. After a while, Jake decides he needs to use the gym, and I let him know the only weightlifting I'll be doing is bicep curls with margaritas. I hung out until I saw all of our folks get together in the Serenity seating area, and Mom and I headed down to deck 2 to get some sushi. On our way down, we walked through the Alchemy Bar, and saw some jewelry presentation being held by a member of the shop staff. Leigh stood right by her, chiming in whenever he thought he could add to her sales pitch. There were tons of people sitting in the bar hanging on their every word. As we walked through, the woman asked us to join them. "I know better," my mother chimed in, before I could give a more polite answer. It wouldn't be the first smart comment made in this play today. The sushi is pretty good, although unlike the actual sushi restaurant on the Dream, there are only a few options available. Each sushi roll was made fresh, and we were given it in a little carry box to take back upstairs. The rolls were $5 or $7.50 depending on which ones you want. Getting back upstairs we all ate lunch and chatted for a while. At one point the announcements came every 20 minutes or so, with Leigh making sure we all knew exactly where he'd be on the ship at all moments. Oh yeah, and the sales. He had to announce Every. Single. Sale. Ever. Eventually Jake rejoined me and we decided to sit in the sun on Serenity for most of the rest of the afternoon. Thankfully Leigh's announcements tailed off as the afternoon wore on. We were greeted by bar staff not long after we sat down, and ordered our drinks. He then asked if we wanted a glass or a pitcher. Of anything... On prior cruises, buckets of beer included bud, bud light and the lime flavored bud. Pitchers were standard margaritas only. We had actually tried last year on the Magic to get mango margarita pitchers, but were told we could not. This man was offering us any drink in a bucket or pitcher. This is significant, very significant to us, because we like to participate in sea day binge drinking. We never get Cheers!, because we hardly drink on the ship during port days, and usually choose port heavy itineraries. This set up a gleeful (and dangerous) precedent for the rest of the cruise. We sat out until dinner time, and then changed and got ready for our first Elegant Night (I know, real exciting day huh?). This would be our first night in the dining room, and we all ordered either the lobster or prime rib. Both were typical to normal Carnival quality being good but not top notch, and then we all ordered the chocolate melting cake we had so dearly missed. I'm not entirely sure if it was just us, having been dieting and eating less sugar, or if it was the cake itself, but the sugary richness was far too much, and no one could finish it. The dining room staff wondered if we wanted something else, but now full, with a slight stomach ache, we decided to go find some music. We headed down to the Alchemy Bar where a singer was singing acoustic versions of modern pop songs. At first we sat in the comfortable seating far away from the music, but another group sat down next to us, and one of them apparently needed to yell as loud as possible at her friends 2 feet away in order for them to hear her. We moved to the bar area closer to the music and I said something to the order of "I'd rather hear the music than this lady screaming into the back of my head." And of course she heard me. Whoops... I asked the Alchemy Bartender for something sort of sweet and sour, and wasn't disappointed by a martini that tasted heavily of pomegranate and sour apple. I'm not sure what Jake ordered, but it smelled and tasted like liquid black licorice. The music was very good, but late dining began lining up 30 minutes early, and it quickly spilled into the alchemy bar and beyond. I'm not entirely sure why assigned dining was lining up so early (2nd floor dining was assigned, 3rd floor was your time dining), but they did, and they weren't let in early. Between the daggers being shot at me from across the room by the rather loud woman, and the roar of conversation coming from line of hungry diners, we abandon the alchemy bar. We headed down to the comedy club from there, and attended another show that was mildly less funny than the one before. I was a bit surprised by the number of people I recognized as having walked out the night before. Those same people got offended about 5 minutes in, and walked out again. Not sure why you'd make the same mistake, with the same comedian 2 nights in a row... We headed to bed after that, our stomachs still protesting the rich, liquid chocolate. Our cabin seemed properly air conditioned when we got back, and we lay under the covers and talked about our observations so far on the cruise. 1) This ship wasn't just less crowded than the others, it had bigger spaces too. 2) The Miracle has a lot of hidden perks they don't tell you about, you just have to find them. 3) Our cruise was absent of children almost entirely. 4) We saw a heavy number of new cruisers on this cruise (noticed by the blue cards on lanyards). We saw very few diamond/platinum guests. 5)Leigh might be the most annoying CD we've ever had. Next up: Cozumel- Mr. Sanchos nearly made us pier runners!
  13. Embarkation Day: Part 2 The steakhouse is always a fantastic experience, but on this ship was was unique, as the steakhouse is perched above the atrium with the forward funnel skylight casting a red shadow across the seating spaces. During our appetizer, we sailed under the Tampa Bay bridge, which was unique looking up through the funnel as we passed. The menu has been updated since last time, and everything we ate was fantastic as usual. We drank two bottles of complimentary wine, and then we were served complimentary champagne when they found out we were celebrating Jake's college graduation. By the end of our meal, we are bloated and tipsy, but still facing dessert. There is a new item called "Art at the Table" on the dessert menu, and it suggested that it be ordered as a group. We all decided to try it, and a few minutes later a friendly Chef came out with a large cutting board and a pile of sweets. She placed them all on the board while making artistic swirls with syrups. At the end, she placed a large hollow ball of white chocolate on the table, then after we took pictures, she cracked open the ball and filled it with ice cream. We really loved this new item, and everything was very good, but if you are looking for substantial dessert, this is not it, merely offering you a taste of several things. Thankfully it was exactly what we needed. From there we waddled back to our rooms and changed into looser fitting clothes. Jake and I had sworn off the playlist shows having seen almost all of them at least twice. Leigh happily announced the night's schedule a few times, and we decided we wanted to check out the music on the ship, as well as the comedian. Heading to the atrium bar, we encountered the string trio (I believe the called themselves the Grace Violin Trio). Jake and I were pleasantly surprised that they were playing modern pop music, but with classical violins. Sitting here for a little while, we ordered a few drinks that were made strong, then headed down to the comedian. The comedy club is interesting looking on this ship, with a sort of crazy Alice in Wonderland theme. It works well for the comedy club, but its easy to be distracted in here looking at the giant fiberglass molds of various animals holding teacups in top hats. I can't remember the name of the comedian, but I remember laughing pretty hard at his jokes while drinking weak margaritas. His material though was definitely R rated, and despite several warnings about the material, we watched as several couples got up and left offended. After 5 years on the ships, I'm still surprised at the people who sit through all the warnings about the content of these shows, then are shocked when they are offended. After the show, we headed up to the piano bar, where we encountered an unusually old school piano bar singer belting out tunes from the 60's, 70's and 80's. Most if it wasn't my type of music, but after hearing "Piano Man" belted out every 5 minutes on past cruises, it was nice to sing to something different for the night. As usual, the strongest drinks on the ship are made in the piano bar, and we found ourselves stumbling to bed around midnight. Returning to our room, we found it a little cooler, but stuffy. That night we slept on top of the blankets, needing earplugs as the cabin had a rhythmic but loud creaking and drumming sound all night. Next up: First Sea Day- Sun, Sushi and Loud Voices
  14. Embarkation Day: Part 1 -First Impressions Checking out of the Ramada was about as bad as we expected, with one employee trying to handle a conference of people checking in, as well as a hotel full of cruise passengers heading out. As the conference arrived 5 hours early, the employee decided to spend her time focusing on checking in early luggage rather than checking anyone out. The second employee downstairs was busy trying to sell outgoing guests on their shuttle service, which was $20 per person. Not only was that expensive, but she seemed to not realize how angry everyone was that they weren't actually being checked out by anyone. I had to walk away for a while, but 20 minutes later it seemed they had both gotten a clue, and were working on getting guests checked out. We got all of our luggage out of the waiting area and proceeded to the front door. "Shuttle?" I was asked. I just laughed and walked by the woman, totally done with the Ramada experience. Instead I ordered an Uber, which conveniently was dropping passengers off at our hotel. I felt sorry for the incoming guests, but we loaded up into the van and headed to the port. Arriving just in time for our 11:30 am check in appointment, porters removed our bags from the van and pointed us to the check in line. We walked through the terminal, and it felt like we didn't stop as we got through security, completed check in and sat down to wait to board. We sat for less than 5 minutes before our zone was called, and we were walking on the ship around noon. It was by far the fastest check in we've ever had, and we didn't even have FTTF. I had warned everyone they would be on a significantly smaller ship. As we stepped on board, Bill turned to us and said, "Small? Holy **** this is a big ship!" We stepped onto deck 3 and were directed down the "Yellow Brick Road" toward the elevators. Ship staff pretty much directed everyone up to Lido to eat lunch, and while you could explore if you insisted, they were quite persistent in inviting you up to lunch. The inside of the Miracle is covered in hues of blue with artwork at every turn. For those of you who like the tame, resort feel of the newer ships, this would likely not be your ship. But I found myself looking everywhere at the murals, art and colors of the Miracle. Making our way up to the lido, we encountered what would be our problem the entire cruise. The split lido deck is almost mirrored on each side, causing us to frequently not realize whether we were going forward or backward until we either got to Serenity or the very front of the ship. Its only about a 30 second error though, and not a matter of anything more than slight embarrassment. We quickly enjoyed some deli wraps and then Jake and I walked around to explore the ship. The serenity deck is absolutely huge, covered in clam shells, loungers and a few hammocks. The serenity deck on this ship also enjoys a fully staffed, full bar, rather than the small stand on the dream class ships. Wondering down onto decks 2 and 3, we were surprised to see an oversized piano bar, a 2 story dance club and bars as far as the eye could see. The comedy club seems to be about the same size as the larger ships, and the alchemy bar is the biggest (and best decorated) I've ever seen. Family again asked if this really was a smaller ship, as they couldn't really comprehend that the smaller ship has much bigger spaces. Finally getting access to our rooms, we all headed down to deck 7, just a bit below lido. Our folks had balcony rooms as I said earlier, and we entered our very first inside cabin on the other side o the hall. Smaller than the balconies we are used to, the cabin was still filled with plenty of storage space, and plenty big enough for 2 people. Our only issue with the room at this point was the heat. The air conditioning vent barely coughed out air, leaving the room very warm. We unpacked and changed, and our room steward greeted us and said they were working on the air conditioning issue. As we talked to the steward, Leigh, the cruise director announces it is time for the Muster drill. Still held on the lifeboat deck, they scanned each and every Sail and Sign card, later calling out the missing passengers by name for the special extended edition of the drill. Once the drill ended, we headed back to our rooms to change for dinner, as we'd scheduled a celebration in the Steakhouse. Next Up: Embarkation Day Part 2- Dinner, Drinks and Drinks!
  15. **Sorry for the over sized font in the previous post. Cut and paste issue that I now have resolved. *** Pre-cruise- Jake, myself and his folks headed to Detroit International Airport on Saturday morning, prepared for a day of travel. We used the offsite parking service QwikPark as usual, and got to the Spirit Airlines baggage check about 2 1/2 hours before takeoff. Check in and security were smooth, and we boarded the plane without any problems. The takeoff was about the smoothest I've experienced, and despite a bit of turbulence, we arrived in Tampa relaxed. We'd chose to stay at the Ramada- Tampa Airport. They advertised a quick and free shuttle service to the hotel to pick us up. We called after we'd collected our luggage at 1 PM, and they said they'd be there shortly to pick us up. We called again at 1:30, 1:45, 2:00 and at 2:15 we decided to call a cab. Right before the cab arrived, the shuttle finally arrived at 2:30 PM. The driver gave us some excuse about police blocking a pickup lane (we saw the whole medical incident that created this, taking all of 15 minutes), and then went on to speak to us energetically, trying to raise our spirits. The trip to the hotel was short, maybe 10 minutes. We arrived and were greeted by an understaffed check in counter, flanked by what was likely a once beautiful saltwater tank full of injured and distressed fish. The employee working the counter was too busy trying to get the line down to care about the poor condition of the display, or to even give us directions through the maze- like hotel. We spent about 10 minutes searching for our rooms, to finally discover them. The beds were comfy, but the furniture was badly sun bleached. The entire property felt like its prime was 10 or 20 years ago. We quickly changed, and met Jake's Aunt and Uncle at a local deli called The Lucky Dill. Driving to the deli, we looked at the lines of hotels down this stretch of Tampa, and wondered how we ended up at the Ramada. Undeterred, we got to the deli that advertises sandwiches so big "it ate Brooklyn." We all ordered some version of the Reuben sandwich they are famous for, and were not disappointed. The food had to be smashed down just to take a bite of it, and the corned beef and sauerkraut were delicious. I managed to eat about one half of my sandwich before collapsing into a corned beef coma. After our meal, Jake's family retired to their hotel room to talk politics, but we preferred a chance at the beach. Cypress Point Park is about a mile and a half from our hotel, and we walked there and visited the beach just before sunset. For a free, local park it was a decent place to start our vacation, and seeing the sunset on the beach was a lot better than staring at the faded furniture in the Ramada. Leaving the beach, we walked to Luekens Liquors to pick up wine to bring on board (Spirit isn't renowned for their careful baggage handling). We walked around a bit, at first wondering why there wasn't much wine in the store. To our surprise, the wine we saw was just the specials, and the wine selection itself was the entire second story of the building. Jake and I wondered the second floor and discovered wine from $2.99 to $299.99. Needless to say, if you need to pick up a bottle before the cruise, this place probably has something for you... Arriving back at the hotel, we swam in the pool for a bit, until the rented room nearby started hosting karaoke. Our quiet dip ended to the sounds of someone doing a rather poor Lady Gaga impression. Returning, we waited for my parents who were due in on a later flight. We both fell asleep, and eventually my phone rang, my Mother telling me they finally landed in Tampa. My parents experience at O'Hare was a bit less smooth than ours. The Spirit Terminal had some sort of malfunction, and passengers were walked down temporary steps into the cold rain outside, then up another set to board the plane on the tarmac. The malfunction had delayed their flight, leaving them cold and wet on the plane. Landing in Tampa, they experienced the same delay with the hotel shuttle, taking over an hour to get them to the hotel as well. We wanted to head downstairs to the hotel's restaurant and bar to get some food, but it turns out that the bar at this hotel closes at 10 PM. Um... what bar closes at 10 PM??? We walked across the street to the Marriott and ate at their bar instead. My parents explained their frustrating day, and we all hoped that boarding the Miracle the next day would go a little smoother. Next up: Embarkation Day
  16. Background: Starting off, I want to talk a little bit about our trip on the Magic in 2018. The more we all thought about that trip, the less we liked it. While several non-cruise factors played a part (sick family and bad flights to start), there were a few cruise related items that stuck out to us: The Magic was packed. Every bar/lounge was standing room only, shows were full 30 minutes or more ahead of time, and food lines were long. Our cabins were awful. Cove balconies are fantastic in good weather, but in rough weather they are loud and rough. Something coming loose on a lifeboat a few days in made things louder. We missed Amber Cove due to weather, and were totally underwhelmed by St Thomas and Grand Turk, leaving only San Juan as our positive port experience. Few vacations are bad vacations, but our trip on the Magic wasn’t worth the money, leaving most of us to consider a different cruise line or an All-Inclusive. Instead, I spoke at length with my PVP, who suggested we try a very different ship and a return to some of my favorite ports. We settled on the Miracle out of Tampa, heading to Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Grand Cayman. Our parents stayed in balcony cabins on level 7, while we stayed in an inside room across from them, wanting to try a new experience, and to save money after our wedding last year. Between our trouble on the Magic and some of Carnival’s continued cuts, this trip would determine our future with Carnival. We approached with open minds and willing hearts, but a more analytical eye than in the past.
  17. Hello again! It’s time for the annual installment of A Winter Escape! Disclaimer: For those of you who have never read or don‘t remember, I consider myself neither cheerleader or troll. What you will read is a balance of positives and negatives regarding the experiences of myself and my family. I understand others even on the same ship may have a very different opinion. If you are looking for a full bashing of Carnival, or for a completely glowing review look elseware. Also, this review is going to take on a pretty in depth look at bigger ships vs smaller ones. We’ve sailed Dream class for 3 years in a row, and the experience on the Miracle was much, much different. The crew: Myself and my husband (Shaun and Jake)- This is our 5th cruise on Carnival, having sailed Elation, Dream and Magic prior. Both of us are younger adults. My my mother and father (Becky and Mike)- experienced cruisers on Carnival and Princess, they’ve sailed about a dozen times between the two lines, and are both nearing retirement age. Prior to this, the Dream is the smallest ship they’ve sailed. My my mother in law and her husband (Patty and Bill)- She is on her 3rd cruise, he’s on his second. They’ve only both experienced the Dream Class. She’s nearing retirement age and he’s 70. I’m in the airport right now and will start my day by day review in the coming days. Until then I’ll try to answer quick questions or you guys can suggest areas you’d like me to focus on. I did not save Fun Times, we did not have any children on the cruise, and did not take any Carnival sponsored excursions, so I can not answer questions regarding those areas. Leave questions or comments, and I’ll answer as I can and start the review soon!
  18. From John Heald, ”I had previously told you about changes to our room service offerings that would go into effect in January. I wanted to let you know that we are in the process of making some adjustments to that plan to balance the interests of our guests with our efforts to reduce food waste costs. For the time being then, there will be no changes until we finalise a plan that will I will communicate to you all.” When asked to specify, John stated that the changes have been cancelled and room service will revert to being free until 10 PM
  19. I say “most” because if I say “all” someone will prove me wrong. It all depends too on what extras are important to you. It used to be that Carnival was definitely more inclusive. But it at this point, drink packages on Carnival aren’t particularly competitive and while room service items can be had for $2-4, if you order meals and not just a single item, it would be cheaper to go with RCI at $7.99 per visit. By by no means am I saying tha Carnival is suddenly more expensive than everyone but I also firmly believe they are no longer hands down the cheapest and most budget friendly line. They are are betting they can bring prices more in line with RCI and NCL, and that their product will still remain competitive. The sudden and rapid build of new mega ships, combined with the added a la carte items shows a change in philosophy.
  20. The responses I got were something to the order of “Your concerns will be passed along to our management team, we appreciate the feedback.” In the last few days, it appears they have shifted to a PR statement about going green, and trying to include the new LNG ship as evidence towards it.
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